An Honourable Man and an Honourable Offering
Hebrews 11:4, ďBy faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.Ē
Examples and witnesses of faith serve to instruct children of God today that God is both the same today as He was then (Hebrews 13:8), that we have the same faith as our fathers, and that Godís people have had similar trials and tribulations that our forefathers (in the faith) have had. (I Corinthians 10:13) When we read accounts, such as the one from the verse above, we glean insights into the causative workings of God as well as the voluntary response of Godís children from His providential direction. Further still, we learn of the far-reaching impact of faith that can touch those that were never acquainted with the particular individual. Let us examine some ďearmarksĒ of the faith in Abelís life to glean instruction for our exercise of faith today. In doing so, we will find ample motivation to offer resounding glory to God for His rich gifts of mercy that He has freely given us as the objects of His grace.
As we read the Genesis account of Abelís life, we learn very quickly that he is different from his brother Cain. Not only is he different in his behaviour, but he is different in the sense of how God looks upon him. Both brothers brought an offering to the Lord, Cain (as a tiller of the earth) brought the firstfruits of the ground, while Abel (as a shepherd) brought the firstlings of the flock. (Genesis 4:2-4) Looking at our verse above from Hebrews, we learn that Abelís sacrifice was more honourable than his brother Cainís. It is imperative that we first and foremost understand why Abelís offering was more honourable than Cainís. Without this crucial piece of information, we will miss the glorious truths that the Apostle Paul brings out in his reference to Abel in regard to faith. Was the root or first cause of Abelís sacrifice being more honourable than Cainís a result of being a blood offering as opposed to a fruit offering?
We learn from Genesis 4:4 that God first had respect unto the man, and then He had respect unto the offering. The root cause of Abelís sacrifice being honourable is that God had respect unto him (whereas He had not respect unto Cain). This tells the honest Bible student that Abel was one of Godís precious elect, whereas Cain was a hated non-elect. (I John 3:15) The root cause of Abelís faith was that God had given him faith to exercise. Without this causative motion of God, there would be no honourable sacrifice made by Abel or any other man. Paul emphasizes this point later in Hebrews 11:6 that faith is a MUST in order to please God. So, if someone has a measure of faith, God is the author of it, as He has dealt it to them. (Romans 12:3) Indwelling faith, an effect of regeneration or the new birth, must be kept in view as the root cause of faith in anyoneís life. Without this implanting of faith, manifestations of faith will always be void and non-existent.
So, now that we understand that Abelís cause of being righteous and a possessor of faith came from God Almighty, we can then address the impact of his righteous and honourable offering. Because Abel is one of Godís precious children, he possessed the capability of pleasing God in his walk. We must also state here that having capacity and using the ability are two different things. While all of Godís born again children (in vital possession of faith) have the ability to please Him, certain seasons can find us not exercising our faith in ways that are pleasing to Him. Let us explain it this way. All people have muscles in their bodies. Each one of us has the same number of muscles in the same places. What makes some of us ďmore muscularĒ than others? Why do certain men beat others in body building competitions that are judged on the size and definition of their muscles? The difference is not having more muscles than someone else, but the winner has utilized or exercised his muscles to a greater degree than the others.
Likewise faith, as discussed in Holy Writ, teaches us that all of Godís children have been dealt that measure of faith from God, but not all of Godís children have exercised their faith to the same degree and level. One may say, ďAbel had more faith (or greater faith) than I do.Ē This is really an improper statement. Our forefathers had the same faith that we do today, but I am afraid my own exercise of it is far inferior to theirs. Knowing that Abel was not only a possessor of faith but an exerciser of it as well, let us now investigate the verbiage the Apostle Paul employs to describe that exercise.